OEL Screentone Revelations!

Long before Tokyopop started pushing the concept of “Original English Language Manga,” or “OEL” for short, something about western attempts at creating “manga” really bothered me, and not for any philosophical reasons. Something always felt off about the artwork, and I just couldn’t pinpoint why. Initially, I thought that it might be because the artists had no idea how to  draw “manga characters,” but I realized that couldn’t be the case, because 100 people drawing big eyes and small mouths “incorrectly,” so to speak, should result in 100 different ways to look not-quite-right. No, the thing that bothered me was something more consistent across the idea of “OEL” before it was called OEL. It had to be a shared trait.

Then last year while looking at OEL, something hit me: for some reason I was being bothered by the screentones. Again however, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I just knew it was something having to do with screentones. In fact, the initial draft of this post is from May of 2009, where the only contents of it was the title of the post, which read “BAD SCREENTONES.”

Finally though, through the keen of eye of the Reverse Thief Narutaki, my suspicions have been confirmed, and I now fully understand why OEL screentones had been bothering me so. I really recommend you read the article, but for the sake of summary: According to Narutaki, in manga, screentone is generally used for patterns or to pull elements into the background of a panel with shading primarily done in ink, but in OEL screentone is more often used for shading and used to excess, which ends up flattening the image.

I feel so relieved!

But this information brought with it a new question: Why is it, if OEL is trying to be like manga (which we all know it is), that it does something that manga almost never does, i.e. use screentone to shade to excess? There are very few examples from manga that would fuel this mass assumption on the part of these artists, after all.

That lead to another revelation: maybe the source of this trend wasn’t “manga” at all, but something closely related. Anime!

Anime is where you will find manga-style characters with some degree of shading, even if it’s a single tone to show a simple fold in their clothing. I can only conclude that the reason OEL shading looks the way it does is because the artists were influenced by the shading methods seen in animation, and then applied these methods to manga where they are in actuality quite foreign despite the fact that anime and manga are so closely related.


Ogiue Chika RANDOM STRANGER AT A DOUJIN EVENT

This is no surprise to me, as anime and manga are often spoken of in the same breath. Heck, I’m no exception, and you will often see me choosing one word or the other when referring to both, as after a while it gets irritating to write “anime and manga” every time instead of just “anime.” Still, it is a very good reminder that as similar as anime and manga are, they also possess a number of unique differences beyond the fact that one is animated and the other is not.

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Mizuhashi Kaori is Constantly Amazing

More often than not, whenever voice actress Mizuhashi Kaori appears in an anime I am amazed by her talent. Not only is she a very good actress capable of playing a variety of roles and personalities, but despite her being the seiyuu of Ogiue Chika it often takes me quite a while to realize that it’s Mizuhashi behind the role.


Ogiue Chika (Genshiken), Miyako (Hidamari Sketch), Rosetta Passel (Kaleido Star), Shimada Minami (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu)

It’s usually when her voice deepens just slightly that I’m able to recognize her. Then when I go back and listen to the character again, I’m astonished that I wasn’t able to catch on. Mizuhashi’s like the best of both worlds when it comes to voice acting; her voice has distinct features to be sure, but she also has a capacity for variation between roles.

In short, she’s a pleasant surprise whenever she appears.

Now I don’t have the vocabulary or familiarity with voice acting to actually explain to you what I think makes her a good voice actor, so I recommend you check out any of her roles, or listen to her voice acting sample on her official profile.

Let’s Analyze Genshiken Chapter 56

Now that a good number of you have received my Christmas present, I think it’s time we take a closer look at this Chapter 56 of Genshiken. Warning, spoilers follow for the original Genshiken series as well as Chapter 56. You might also want to check out my review of Genshiken.

Ever since Genshiken ended back in 2006 or so, I, being rather fond of Ogiue, wanted to see what the club would be like with her as chairman. If you were lucky enough to pick up the two volumes of Kujibiki♡Unbalance, then you got a glimpse into this future. Ogiue changed hairstyles, using the straight-down style from the final chapter of the manga as her default and only switching to her signature brush head when working on manga. Sue started studying in Japan, and her Japanese has improved by leaps and bounds. Ohno is delaying graduation in order to fend off the real world for just a little longer. And now with this new special, we get to see the next generation of Genshiken members.

From left to right: Hato, Yoshitake, and Yajima

While Ogiue is of course always wonderful and Sue pretty much steals the show with her penchant for references and her skillful impersonation of an American Character in Anime probably the most fascinating part of Chapter 56 is the long-awaited arrival of new blood in the circle. Hato, Yoshitake, and Yajima’s biggest impact on Genshiken is that they make you realize the fact that characters like them were missing from the series all along.

“Well yeah, it’s not like Genshiken ever had a crossdresser aside from that one time with Kohsaka,” you might be saying, but we’ve also not seen a guy who’s on the other side of the doujin fence, so to speak. Yoshitake meanwhile is a super enthusiastic fujoshi unlike any we’ve seen before, even among Yabusaki’s friends or Ohno’s American pals. Yoshitake’s the kind of character who would probably fit in best at an American con. Yajima is kind of similar to Ogiue in personality, except that where Ogiue is often like a blazing inferno kept in check by a thick insulated coating, Yajima is actually just a woman of few words. She also seems to have the most “normal” stance on yaoi, asking Yoshitake to restrain her enthusiasm in public. Her weight also can’t be overlooked, as it gives her an interesting quality in that she feels a bit overwhelmed by the previous generation of gorgeous Genshiken girls.

Much like how Ogiue’s first glimpse of Sasahara as a leader colored her perceptions of him, the three new members of the Modern Culture Society are viewing Ohno entirely as that motherly figure she eventually became, and Ogiue as an authority figure. . It’s all summed up in the scene where Ohno starts to “brag” at the new members about Ogiue’s accomplishments, and it just goes to show how different things can be when the person on the bottom of the totem pole has suddenly reached the top.

And though I said that the most fascinating part about Genshiken Chapter 56 is the new members, I still want to spend some time talking about Ogiue. It is wonderful to see how she handles her leadership role, using her talents and ideas to try and grow the club which she has grown to love over time. It’s great to see her relationship with Sasahara, even if it at times becomes awkward and semi-professional. She’s the Ogiue I remember, and yet still quite different from what she was. She’s matured in her time at college and become more comfortable in her own skin, and it’s just a reminder of why I consider her the best female character, period.

So that’s the next generation of Genshiken. To top it off, let’s go through the references Sue and others make, or at least the ones I was able to figure out. The tricky thing about Sue now is that because her Japanese has gotten better, sometimes she doesn’t make references and instead just speaks actual Japanese, and so everything she says you have to first figure out if she’s taking a line from something or just her own head.

Sue: “Oh no! What an awful room! It’s like a rabbit pen in here!

This is from Kinnikuman Lady, a genderbent parody of the original Kinnikuman. Sue is dressed like Terryman’s female counterpart Terrygirl. Keep in mind that Sue actually says, “Oh no!” in English here.

Sue: Ogiue Chika is mah wife!”

Again from Kinnikuman Lady. In the Japanese version, Sue is imitating the Terryman-style of Janglish by saying “Me no yome” instead of “My” or “Ore no.”

Ohno: “I really wanted to be Robin, though.”

Kinnikuman Lady once again, as well as her cosplay.

Kuchiki: “Ramen Angel P (etc.).”

Ramen Angel Pretty Menma is a made-up visual novel/ero game in Genshiken. Sasahara really likes the series.

Sue: “My harsh remarks are made by transmuting…”

A line by Senjougahara Hitagi from Bakemonogatari.

Yuki x Shige

I’m not sure if this is just a made up series or not, but I suspect it’s Sengoku Basara-related.

Sue: “My name is Ogiue and I hate otaku!”

This and the followup is of course from Ogiue’s infamous introduction.

Sue: “Rararame.

Again from Bakemonogatari, but this time Sue is referencing the character Hachikuji Mayoi. The entire gag following this is an extended Hachikuji reference.

Snapple Pricking Gheam

A parody of the Zan Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei OP “Apple Picking Beam.” In Japanese, the original song is “Ringo Mogire Beam” while Genshiken wrote it as “Bingo Mobire Geam.” According to the Genshiken timeline this show shouldn’t actually exist yet, but we’ll let it slide.

Sue: “Yahhh! Your house is haunted!”

This is a line from My Neighbor Totoro.

That’s all. To Genshiken. May it get another anime adaptation to finish its story. May Kio Shimoku feel the desire to revisit these characters again. May Angela and Sue get their own most excellent American spin-off.

Actually, one last question to you all: should Hato be considered for the fujoshi files?

Response: A Further Look at the Realism of Genshiken

The Reverse Thieves made a post today about perceptions of realism in fiction and how pessimism tends to overwhelm optimism in public opinion of what is “realistic” or not, at the expense of being able to tell more happy and uplifting stories. It’s a really good read and it got me thinking, particularly because of the primary example they use, my beloved Genshiken.

Hisui writes,

There are a standard list of complaints people have with Genshiken. The first being the prevalence of  female characters in the club and those female characters being too attractive to be in such. The second complaint is that too many of the club members wind up in relationships by the end of the series. Tacked on to this is the belief that the characters lives turn out too cheery overall. Too many of them get jobs they like and come to accept who they are through the club. Essentially, Genshiken is not harsh enough. Real otaku are sadder and more pathetic. Real otaku life is darker and drearier. To generalize the complaint, Genshiken white-washes the life of an otaku and makes it seems happier than it is. Genshiken is accused of having just enough realism to get you to ignore the lies and placates with what you want to hear but does not give you the true story.

I’ve talked about Genshiken on this blog numerous times, and it comes as a surprise to no one that I love the series. I’ve heard these complaints too, that Genshiken is too unrealistic in that its members all achieve some degree of happiness and success, whether it be in relationships, careers, or other areas entirely. However, I want to point out that having the majority of the cast descend into a pit of despair and bland mediocrity would be more unrealistic. It is very possible for geeks and introverts to remain immature and unsocial creatures who remain uncomfortably nervous when interacting with others, but it becomes much more difficult when these otaku are faced with the situations that Genshiken finds itself in.

There is one character in particular responsible for bringing the otaku of Genshiken out of their shells, and she arguably has the most influence on the entirety of the manga.

Did you guess Ogiue? You know me well, but this time you’re mistaken. The girl I’m talking about is Kasukabe Saki.

Saki is initially brought into the club by her boyfriend Kohsaka. Saki is not an otaku and has no interest in becoming one nor the subconscious will to do so. As Narutaki points out, and as I’ve seen numerous times, it is not so unusual for an otaku or a geek or a gamer to bring his non-dork girlfriend into his club. And it’s also not so unusual to have at least one otaku who is charismatic or handsome. Saki initially dislikes Genshiken and finds opportunities to insult its members or to devise ways to separate Kohsaka from the club, but what she inadvertently does is expose them to forces outside of Genshiken, outside of their comfort zone. It is their encounter with the “real world,” so to speak, and as anyone who was once debilitatingly shy or awkward will tell you about what was responsible for their change, increased interaction with others is central to that success.

Further still, you would find that having to confront someone with opinions different from your own when you have no way of escaping will affect you and make you grow as a person. This is the case with Genshiken, as the club itself is regarded as inferior to the Manga and Anime Societies of Shiiou University, making it a club dedicated to outcasts among outcasts and thus the end of the line with no points of escape other than to abandon clubs entirely, and to lose that opportunity to be around others. This is clearly something that none of the members want, and the result is growth and change.

As a fellow new member, Sasahara finds himself positioned opposite Saki through his status as a burgeoning otaku. Becoming chairman of Genshiken simply because he seemed the best fit for carrying on the lackadaisical spirit of Genshiken, his assumed role at the top of the chain and the responsibilities given to him result in his confidence and maturity growing accordingly. He is able to win Ogiue over because he represents someone who is comfortable with himself, something he learned from being with Genshiken for so long. Keep in mind that he applies for the position of manga editor out of desperation, but then realizes that it’s a position he’s already had similar experience in, and is able to use his sincere love of manga and status as an otaku to convince the interviewer of his qualifications. And it all came from having to be Genshiken chairman every day for an entire year. Do something every day and love what you’re doing, and it’s almost impossible not to improve. This is reality.

Similarly, Tanaka goes on to a fashion college after graduating. Tanaka was already interested in making costumes, but the arrival of Ohno gives him the opportunity to constantly improve his craft with a willing partner and to devote his personal time and energy to it. We the readers are not entirely sure when Tanaka began to actually have feelings for Ohno beyond simple physical attraction, but we can be certain that they interacted with each other often and became very good friends who were able to share and understand each other’s ideas and feelings. While you might say it’s unrealistic that a hot babe like Ohno would go for a scruffy tubby guy like Tanaka, would you say the same thing if you knew a guy and a girl in real life who hung around each other practically every day and were united by common interests, and the girl was given the opportunity to see that the guy was not only pretty decent but had creativity and ambition, albeit in cosplay form?

Saki herself meanwhile undergoes significant changes too. Just like how the members of Genshiken were forced to confront opinions different from their own, Saki became exposed to the world of otaku and understood that people are defined by more than their hobbies and interests. While success and confidence were hers from the start, they were incomplete, as Saki was initially embarrassed to reveal to others that her boyfriend is an otaku. However, by being with Genshiken she not only accepts the idea of a boyfriend who will never stop being an otaku, but is able to proudly show that it’s not something she simply tolerates but is another aspect of the man she loves.

In the end, the X-Factor of Genshiken is Genshiken itself. Gather a group of people with different personalities and outlooks on life, and have them interact with each other every day for years on end, and people will change. It’s inevitable. Genshiken just happens to be fortunate enough to be comprised primarily of people who, while socially awkward, are interested in friendship and being able to share moments with others. While it’s impossible for me to be a part of Genshiken, I can personally say that my own experiences as a geek and as an otaku do not fall far from this example given in fiction. Even those who find themselves subject to the pit of despair would be hard-pressed to resist personal transformation in such an environment.

OGIUE’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO MANGA (sort of)

I recently purchased Volume 1 of Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture creator Kio Shimoku’s newest manga, Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, about an 18 year old mom trying to raise her newborn child. A review will be posted in due time, but there is something more important I must address.

Manga published in Japan generally has a dust jacket where the manga’s front cover is printed, as opposed to manga published in the US where the image appears directly on the book. As such, manga often have images underneath the dust jackets. Curious about Jigopuri, I looked underneath only to uncover this on the back cover.

YEEEEEEEESSSSSSS

Ogiue is saying, “Whatever the circumstances may be, there’s no way they could get this big.” (Thanks to prinny for correcting my mistake)

Even when the content isn’t even related to Genshiken, Kio Shimoku still finds a way to fit Ogiue in, and for that I give him eternal respect and devotion.

Incidentally, this is on the front cover.

Madarame: Why did he use these designs?
Sasahara: Who knows?

Saki’s Comment and Ogiue’s Transformed Wardrobe

At the beginning of Volume 5 of Genshiken, Saki comments on Ogiue’s clothing, telling her that if she wore clothing that fit better Ogiue would look much cuter. While we know that at the end of the chapter Ogiue made one failed attempt to revise her wardrobe, what we can see in later chapters is that Ogiue did indeed take Saki’s advice to heart. It’s something not immediately noticeable, but her clothes do start to fit better and become a little more feminine (though still boyish most of the time), especially after she starts to date Sasahara. This ultimately culminates into the outfit that Ogiue wears to Sasahara’s graduation, one of the few times we ever see her in a skirt (the first time is at dinner celebrating with everyone on a doujinshi well-sold).

Some visuals:

One of the few gripes I have with Genshiken

In the earlier volumes of Genshiken, there would always be writings by the various members of Genshiken pertaining to particular topics, and always under a psuedonym. They were always a fun window into each character, and early on it was interesting figuring who exactly was who.

Ogiue never had a chance to write.

By the time Ogiue comes around, even Ohno at first is contributing here and there, but in the later volumes it turns into Madarame and Sasahara discussing things like Kujibiki Unbalance preliminary character sketches.

Maybe it’s because Ogiue is more a story-oriented writer, or even that because we the readers are so privvy to her innermost thoughts that it becomes somewhat unnecessary, but the writings were never really “innermost thoughts,” much like how this blog isn’t in the strictest sense.

I mean, I can’t be the only one who’d like to know which Kujibiki Unbalance fighting game character Ogiue prefers, right?